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PRELUDES is a longitudinal study. It follows children born preterm from 9 months to 18 months of age, corrected for the degree of prematurity. This is a period in which the roots of language development take hold. We want to analyze these early stages of language development. Our long-term goal is to assure that each child gets the very best start that is possible. 

Why does this study assess language?

Language is a critical life skill. It allows children to tell adults what they want and what they need. It also allows them to share with parents what they see and understand about their world. Using language, people can communicate about the present, the past and the future. People can think and communicate about abstract ideas. Language is a major route for learning in children. It provides access to knowledge. It forms the roots for learning to read. Infants and toddlers who have strong language skills have a greater chance of succeeding in school, keeping friends, and eventually get a good job than children with early delays. 

What is the overall purpose of the PRELUDES study?

The purpose of this study is to explore how the social environment and characteristics of the brain both impact the development of language in children born preterm. The social environment includes the amount of language the child hears at home and the ways that children and families interact together. The characteristics of the brain are measured using MRI scans. The children in this study had MRI scans before they left the hospital and we will assess how the brain grows and changes in the first year. 

Why is the PRELUDES study important?

The results of this study will contribute to theories of language development in all children. We do no yet understand how the environment can change the brain. We specifically hope to understand language development in children born preterm. Then we can help preterm children learn language at young ages to prevent or mitigate early delays.

Who can participate?

Children in the study meet the following criteria

  • Born preterm, <32 weeks gestational age
  • From primarily English- or Spanish- speaking households
  • Born at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
  • Received an MRI scan before they left the hospital 

What does participating in the study require?

  • Families enroll before their children turn 9 months old, corrected for prematurity. They may consent to participate in the hospital after.
  • The study procedures begin when the child reaches 9 months of age, corrected for prematurity
    • 9 months: Parents complete questionnaires in English or in Spanish, whichever they prefer
    • 9 months: we ask the parents to place a special recorder (called a lENA) on the child for one day so we can assess the adult and child language within the home
    • 12 months: we invite the child and family to our laboratory for developmental testing and a play session. We ask parents to complete additional questionnaires. 
    • 12 months: we obtain a second MRI scan on the child so we can determine growth of the brain over the first year of life
    • 15 months: we again ask parents to complete questionnaires
    • 15 months: we again ask parents to place a special recorder (LENA) on the child for one day so we can assess the adult and child language within the home 
    • 18 months: we ask the parents to bring the child to the laboratory for two sessions about a week apart for developmental testing and a play session

How may participating help my child?

  • Your child may not gain any benefits from participating in this study.
  • We will assess your child's development. 
  • We will share with you if we identify any delays.
  • We will contact your primary care clinician or the Infant Development Specialty Program to help you find the right services for your child.
  • We will share with you any results we obtain. 

What are the risks of participating in this study?

  • There are no major risks associated with this study.
  • The MRI scan is considered safe. It does not use x-rays. It does not require any medications.
  • We know that parents may be worried about their child and the procedures of this study may increase that worry. 

How can I enroll my child in the study?

We are currently recruiting! If you are a parent who would like to participate in our study, please reach out! Here is how you can reach us:

  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Text Message
Other Resources



Study Procedures

More information about what happens in PRELUDES